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Dec 07, 2011

In-Person Support Key to Successful Weight Loss

Added support may help patients keep weight off, for good.

With nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese, effective weight loss programming is needed now more than ever. Carrying around extra weight greatly increases risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and can take a toll on quality of life. But for those who are ready to address their weight and health, weight loss can be difficult. Not only does weight loss take time, but keeping the weight off can be equally as difficult once returning to a regular diet. So what’s the best way for individuals to lose weight and keep it off?

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine tested out two types of weight-loss programs — one providing remote weight-loss support via telephone, website and e-mail, and another offering in-person support groups with remote support. A total of 415 obese individuals participated in this study, most of whom were women around the age of 54. Researchers found that over two years, individuals receiving in-person support were more likely to lose more weight than those receiving support remotely. Not only did those receiving in-person support lose one pound more, on average, but they also were more likely to lose 5% or more of their initial body weight at the start of the program than those receiving remote support only.

These findings suggest that incorporating support groups into weight-loss programming can help increase weight loss and help patients sustain that weight loss over time. And hopefully, if weight loss programs with support groups are made more available nationwide, overweight and obese individuals will have a better chance at achieving healthier weights and improving their overall health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How do I know if I'm overweight or obese?

  • There are a few easy ways to evaluate weight. First, you can use your height and weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI). A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or greater is obese. And because BMI is not always a perfect assessment of weight, it is important to measure your waist circumference. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man is overweight.
  • What was the focus of the weight-loss programming in the study?

  • The remote and in-person support weight loss programs were similar. Both methods centered around key weight-management behaviors, including diet, exercise and motivation.

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